Day 238 (Aug. 26): Nebuchadnezzar frees Jeremiah, Jeremiah returns to Jerulsalem, Babylonian Captain of the Guard Nebuzaradan, oversees the destruction of Jerusalem, Babylonians strip Jerusalem of temple’s bronze, 70 years of rest for the land of Judah, Jeremiah mourns for Jerusalem in Lamentations

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Jeremiah 39:11-18

Jeremiah 40:1-6

2 Kings 25:8-21

Jeremiah 52:12-27

2 Chronicles 36:15-21

Lamentations 1:1-22

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jeremiah 39:11-40:6): So, Nebuchadnezzar understands that Babylon’s taking of Jerusalem is all of God’s doing, just as Jeremiah had prophesied.  And, thus, he releases Jeremiah because he is God’s messenger.

A. It does appear that way, yes.  God has clearly intervened in the mind of the king on Jeremiah’s behalf.

Q. (39:16): We have seen Ebed-melech the Ethiopian a couple of times now.  Is this connection to him or Ethiopia of significance?

A. He was a palace official of some sort, and apparently not a Jew, but his loyalty to Jeremiah (he’s the man who rescued him from the cistern in chapter 38) caused God to spare his life.  We don’t really know anything else about him, as these are the only two references to the name (38 and 39).

Q. (2 Kings 25:8-21): Now what happened?  I thought King Nebuchadnezzar and his followers were now respecting God after His messages came true.  But here, they are ravishing Jerusalem.  Then, in v. 18, I thought Zedekiah and all of the leaders fled Jerusalem the night that the Babylonian soldiers stormed the city.  Maybe the priests stayed behind.  The priests that were taken were not godly, right?

A. Nope, bad priests, just like the bad fruit God said would be left behind.  Jerusalem was destroyed because of Zedekiah’s revolt, and Nebuchadnezzar showed no mercy, as God intended.  God, as the reading indicates, desired for the land of Judah to be “fallow” and renewed in time.

Q. (2 Kings 25:13-17): There is a lot of bronze here!

A. It was the most accessible material for making shapes and metallic objects.  Iron ore was very expensive, as were silver and gold, obviously.

O. I had an epiphany earlier today.  It’s one of those that I should have realized a long time ago.  Sometimes, I’m a little slow!  Here God raised up Israel to be His model nation, to show the world what God can do for His people.  I had always thought of the other nations as Israel’s enemy, but God loved them too.  He wanted them to look to Israel and learn and love.  But, Israel failed Him time and time again.  So, not only was Israel failing God and themselves, they were failing the whole world because they were not a good ambassador for God.  Also, a destruction ordered by His own authority, how hard it must have been for God to see the beautiful city that Solomon built and God blessed be destroyed.  I guess He did it to let the land lay fallow and heal from all of the wickedness.

Q. (Lamentations 1:1-2): How beautiful Jerusalem is personified here — literally, not spiritually.  Jeremiah writes this as if there is a female beholder of Jerusalem and now her wickedness is crushed and she no longer has anyone to partner with.

A. It is a powerful lament for the city — note that it is an acrostic with the Hebrew alphabet like several of the Psalms we read — by the man that has been known throughout the ages as the “weeping” prophet.

Q. There sure are a lot of Babylonian names that begin with an “N”.

A. The Babylonian deity of wisdom — and the son of one of their primary god Marduk — was known as Nabu or Nebo.  Nebuchadnezzar means, “god Nabu, defend my firstborn son,” and many of these other names also relate to the deity Nabu.  It is a similar reason to why many names in Hebrew (when translated into English) begin with “J” (Joshua, Joseph, Jabez, Jacob, Jeremiah etc.)- the Hebrew name from God is transliterated in Egnlish as Jehovah (Yahweh).

 

Day 226 (Aug. 14): Jeremiah praises God, Babylon’s destroying power will be punished, exiles told to flee Babylon before the fall, Babylon will be leveled, Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem and carried away it’s treasures, Nebuchadnezzar took 10,000 captives including King Jehoiachin, Zedekiah rules Jerusalem for 11 years, Egypt came to help Judah against Babylon but Babylon retreated, God said they will return and destroy

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Jeremiah 51:15-58

2 Kings 24:10-17

2 Chronicles 36:10

1 Chronicles 3:10-16

2 Chronicles 36:11-14

Jeremiah 52:1-3

2 Kings 24:18-20a

Jeremiah 37:1-10

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jeremiah 51:15-19): This is a lovely hymn of praise.  I do like to read them.  They usually paint a picture of what life is like living with God near.  However, I do start taking them for granted, just glossing over them because I get the gist of them.  I am guilty also of doing this with prayer and praise.  I get lazy.  For instance, for a while, I was praying before I did every blog.  Now, it’s rare.  I do talk to God throughout the day, but I wondered if you had any suggestions on how to keep praising God without it feeling redundant.  If you give praise from the heart, it helps.

A. There’s a natural ebb and flow to our prayer life and our walk with God, and what you are describing is perfectly natural.  Redundancy can be very difficult to combat, and the laziness it tends to breed in us can make you feel like a failure.  So, first, know that God still loves each of us, even when we fall short despite our best intentions not to.  Among my advice for you would be to determine, as we talked about recently, what your “pathway” is to God: if you know how you best connect with God, it will tend to be the way that is least vulnerable to the apathy you’re describing.  Keep trying new things as well: find different places to pray, or things to read (besides the Bible) to keep your intellect engaged.  Lastly, finding ways to “act out” what you are reading or praying about (aka service to others) will surely help to keep apathy from setting in.

Q. (51:27): Where did Ararat, Minni and Ashkenaz come from?

A. They are the names of other nations in this part of the ancient world, but we don’t know exactly where they refer to.

Q. (51:44): I haven’t heard of Bel.

A. We saw it yesterday and maybe a couple of quick references to it, but no, it’s not a term that we would be familiar with yet.  Bel refers to the chief deity of the Babylonians (it is a title, like lord, rather than a proper name), whose “proper” name is Marduk, the sun deity and patron god of Babylon.

Q. (37:3): I think it’s so amusing, crazy — I’m not sure of the word — when these kings do things that are wicked in God’s sight, but then somehow acknowledge Him like Zedekiah is doing here when he asks Jeremiah to pray for him and his people.

A. He wants the benefits of a relationship with God without having to make any sacrifices for it.  Sounds like human nature to me.

Day 183 (July 2): More of Solomon’s proverbs — they are good ones and some are amusing, but true

Congratulations!  You have reached the half-way point of this Bible-in-a-year marathon.  I ran a marathon once.  I remember those people in the crowd shouting, “Keep going, you’re half way, you’re looking great.”  I won’t tell you what I wanted to shout back at them.  But for this blogs half-way point, my brain is jumping for happiness and I want to push on and learn more!  I hope you all are enjoying it too.  What a perfect way to commemorate than with some wisdom from Solomon.

This is BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Proverbs 25-29:27

Questions & Observations

Q. (Proverbs 25:6-7): Trusting in God requires that you are patient.  There are so many things that I would like to fast-track, but I am learning to know that if I wait for God to act that something more wonderful will happen than what I had planned for myself.

A. Patience is rarely considered a virtue these days, but it truly is, and through patience is the only way God works.

O. (25:7b-8, 18): I know it’s because of doing this blog that I’ve changed my old way of thinking.  This verse comes into play when I think for myself “by saying something, what gain will it do?  Will it hurt anyone?”  I normally put my “God filter” on my mouth and remain quiet.  I had a situation at work the other day where expectations were wrongly placed because of miscommunication.  I asked God to give me words to speak.  He did and instead of joining bashing someone, God’s words lifted them up.  That felt so great.  Now my “God filter” is coming to me more naturally.  But, I still just usually pause and give myself a little time to process the situation, ask God for His words, then respond.  It’s so hard to give God control, to give up our own control, but when you do, it’s fascinating!  Same with verse 18.  Don’t say things that bring people down.  Lift them up!  Besides, if you ever want to see someone who is not perfect, just look in the mirror.

O. (25:14): This one speaks to me.  I tell my kids that if they do a certain chore, then they’ll get a reward.  Then, sometimes I tack on another one.  That brings distrust from them.

Q. (25:20): Does this mean that if someone is sad, let them be sad?

A. Not necessarily.  I would say its more about being insensitive to those who are sad, and either trying too hard to cheer them up, or not realizing their state of sadness and wrongly assuming everything is alright.

Q. (26:4-5): These verses are contradicting.

A. The apparently contradicting content of these verses is one of the most commonly “pounced on” examples used by non-believers who are eager to show the Bible as full of contradictions and therefore worthy of ridicule.  I think that this position takes much too low a view of what Solomon is getting at.  It is quite clear that the writer, or editor, is putting them together for a reason (if you’re trying to prevent people from noticing this “contradiction,” then you don’t put these verses next to each other!).  What is that reason?  I would say that Solomon is giving two sets of advice to you as a reader/hearer, and it is up to you to decide how to use it.  There are times when we must discern whether it is worth the fight with a foolish person.  Do we stand our ground, and potentially waste a great deal of time in a pointless argument?  If so, it’s probably better not to argue in the first place (that would be verse 4).  But if you are convinced that by not engaging, you will leave the person proud in their own eyes, and thinking they have defeated you, then its probably worth the trouble (verse 5).  Sometimes the wisdom that Solomon is imparting to us requires us to use a bit of wisdom of our own.

Q. (26:8,13,25): These proverbs talk a lot about the foolish, the lazy and hatred.  Maybe three characteristics of ungodly people?

A. Would that it were so.  I know far too many “godly” people who I would say fit into these categories.  These are simply part of human nature, and Christian and non-Christian — or Jewish and non-Jewish as it were — alike can be susceptible to them.  Part of what Solomon desired, I suspect, was to offer people wisdom in the hopes that they would use it to better themselves, and not fall into the traps that are often the unforeseen consequence of being hateful, lazy, or foolish.

O. (26:26): Helped by gossipers then, I guess.  Today, we have the media.

O. (27:4): Jealousy is such a quiet emotion, but I think a lot of people, including myself — although I have learned to shrug it off — struggle with it.  My daughter is amazing.  If she hears of someone else having a play date or arguing about whom is going to sit by whom, she is not bothered at all.  She’s my role model for that.  But, here it says that jealousy is more dangerous than anger.  That’s a good visual of how damaging it can be to one’s character.

Q. (27:8): What does this mean?  My grandma told me this verse when I decided to go to Hawaii for a college exchange program.  I have been one to go far from my nest.

A. I guess he’s saying there is much more potential danger away from home.  Think of what happened to the Prodigal Son when he got away from home (Luke 15).

Q. (27:14): I say, “Amen” as I am definitely not a morning person.  But, I always thought it was better to be “early to bed, early to rise” and be chipper in the morning.  So, is this just one of Solomon’s pet peeves?

A. I don’t think he’s talking about morning people verses those who sleep in, but I honestly don’t know what he’s talking about here.

Q. (27:15): I wrote “Jezebel” next to this.  But, I think this applies to everyone.  I think it is much harder to be around complainers, gossipers and pessimists.

A. Indeed.

Q. (27:19): To me, the face reflected is maybe the person people want to be, but a heart can secretly struggle with evil thoughts.

A. It can indeed, which is why God told Samuel not to be impressed with David’s handsome brothers back in 1 Samuel 16.  You look at outward appearances and can be fooled, but I look at the heart to see the true character of a person.

Q. (27:21): What does this mean?

A. As gold and silver are “tested” by the refining process — i.e. the more pure the gold, the better it holds up — a person is “tested” by how they react to receiving praise.  I see great wisdom in this verse.

Q. (28:7): Reflecting on my years as a teen, or even as young adults, I recall me and my sister’s choices of friends.  Some were great, some were good and some were really bad influences.  I don’t recall my parents ever trying to guide us on who we hung out with — sometimes it was who chose us.  But, even if they did, I think we would view their advice as meddling.  So, if parents are unable to influence their kids’ choice of friends, then it’s up to the kids.  I think that is the message here.  But how many kids will read this verse?

A. There’s no way to answer that.  The question you can answer is, “will YOUR kids read it.”  I feel that part of my responsibility as a parent is teach my daughters how to be smart about who to be friends with and who to trust.  But ultimately, as you say, it will be up to them.  I can only hope to show them the value of choosing friends wisely.

Q. (28:8): Can you explain this one?

A. If you exploit the poor to get rich, God will ensure you don’t get to enjoy the benefits of your labor.  Your money will end up in the hands of a person who treats the poor fairly.

O. (28:11): I bet this drives the rich nuts when they face someone is wiser than them.

Q. (28:19): This isn’t supposed to put down the entrepreneurial spirit, right?  We are supposed to use the talents God gave us.  This is saying that those who try for years to be something like an actor, but never succeed should quit and find something they are good at and work hard?

A. As with the verses we talked about above, there must be a level of discernment in our decision making, especially in something as important as our career.  We must be very careful that our entrepreneurial desires are not, as Solomon says, ultimately a fantasy.  If they are, we are in trouble.

Q. (28:23): I worked with two wonderful ladies in a preschool.  One would tell parents if their child had some issues, the other was bubbly and said the child had a great day — not always, but she dodged criticism of the child.  As a parent, I would want to know if my child was acting up — maybe he/she is bored, maybe they need more parent interaction at home, maybe it’s the terrible 2s or 3s — and I need to investigate to see what’s going on.  The bubbly teacher said she didn’t want to bring shame or embarrassment to the parents.  It seems as if Solomon is saying that the honest teacher made the best choice when talking to parents?

A. I believe that most parents would want to be told about problems their children have, so I can see the value in being honest.  But I would hesitate to call what the other woman was doing “flattery.”  Flattery involves telling a person what they want to hear for your own gain, and it is intellectually dishonest.  It is barely above lying in my mind.

O. (28:26): I felt something change in me this week.  From the last question, you can see that I worked in a preschool last year.  Not my thing.  A little over a week ago, my husband met a muralist on the job.  (I painted my girls rooms with full-room murals.  It took forever, but I enjoyed it.)  They talked and she said she was interested in talking to me.  So, I gave her a buzz.  I sent her some pictures.  I thought she could just give me advice on how to start up in a business.  After talking to me once, we were going to meet on a Monday.  Not a minute went by, and she called again and told me to wear my paint clothes — I had a little job without even meeting her.  It was glorious!  I loved it.  She’s a Christian and her incredible story of how she got started was an act of God.  So, I have really been fulfilled this week.  We had a pool party after my daughter’s last day of camp.  Of course, there were several moms from Geneva there.  All Christians.  We were talking about our hearts, how if we are thinking something bad, we don’t speak it, but we still feel it in our hearts.  We were talking about how we need to turn that off and see people for how they are and not criticize.  Good conversations!  Then, after the night had slowed down, I took a nice quiet walk with my dog.  But, lo and behold, we were not alone.  I haven’t felt God walk with me like that before.  I felt filled with glory.  I hope exploring the Bible like this has been a wonderful experience too!  If you have any testimonials, please share in a comment!

Q. (29:5): Could you explain this verse?

A. Flattery is a “trap” of words: we tell people something (which we probably don’t actually believe) in order to profit from it somehow.  Solomon is merely pointing out the similarity of setting a real trap for the person.  It is verbal manipulation.

Congrats on reaching the half-way point.  And, it’s only going to get better.  We hit the New Testament September 24.

Day 159 (June 8): Solomon’s advice for young and old, Northern tribes revolt against Rehoboam, Shemiah warns Rehoboam to stand down against relatives, Jeroboam makes idols, Preists strengthen Judah

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Ecclesiastes 11:7-12:14

1 Kings 12:1-20

2 Chronicles 10:1-19

1 Kings 12:21-24

2 Chronicles 11:1-4

1 Kings 12:25-33

2 Chronicles 11:5-17

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ecclesiastes 11:9): If only all young people would read this and adopt it!  But, he is again saying life without God is meaningless, right?

A. You got it.

Q. (12:8): Why does he call himself the Teacher?

A. The word chosen here can, in addition to teacher, mean leader or head of an assembly.  He referred to himself using that term back in chapter 1.  So it appears to mean something like professor or lecturer as we would use the terms today.

Q. (12:12-13): Is Solomon saying that you don’t need to know everything there is to know, just know God’s laws and abide by them?  This is a nice conclusion!

A. The last section was written by some unknown person, possibly an editor of the major parts of the text.  But you’ve read the conclusion correctly.

Q. (1 Kings 12:15): What would you say to those people who say this is predestination here?

A. I would say that there are clear elements of both free will (Rehoboam’s poor decision making) and predestination at work in this verse and story.  You can almost always point to elements of both of these views in events such as these: God directs the path, but people still have to make their own choices.  It’s never as cut and dry as, frankly, either side desires it to be.

Q. (1 Kings 12:21): Why did Benjamin join Judah?

A. It appears that Rehoboam’s influence as king went as far north as Bethel, which was the northern boundary of Benjamin’s territory.  Based upon our previous readings (11:31-32), the implication is that many of the tribe of Benjamin were loyal to the Northern Kingdom and the rebel king Jeroboam, but the territorial influence of the Davidic king (Rehoboam) meant that the territory and army of Benjamin stayed loyal to that king.

Q. (2 Chronicles 11:16-17): I think we talked about how people were more nomadic back then.  Here, the Levites who were under Jeroboam moved to Jerusalem so they could worship God under Rehoboam.  Today, if we have a bad leader, we just put up with it until the next election.  Most people wouldn’t take a big step and move.  But, I’m sure we have more to move now than they did back then.

A. Jeroboam was preventing them from fulfilling their God-given task as His priesthood, while anointing other (non-Levite) priests to preform his pagan rituals to these other gods.  It would have been a great affront to these priests, so it is not a surprise to me that they were eager to “get out of Dodge.”

Day 158 (June 7): Solomon on: wisdom for life, few choose God’s wisdom, wicked vs. righteous, both face death, wisdom and folly, Murphy’s law, undercertainties of God and his actions

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Ecclesiastes 7-11:6

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ecclesiastes 7:4): Does this mean that wise people think about where they go after death?  And, a fool doesn’t, thus he/she lives the life of folly and will be judged harshly?

A. Not necessarily.  It may just mean that the wise man/woman thinks of the long term (including death) while the fool is only thinking about the here and now.

O. (7:10): I often think of how much “me” time I had before I had children.  Sometimes, I dream of it, but only briefly.  But, I remember being lonely.  And that, I am definitely not anymore!  I’m not sure what Solomon is talking about here in “the good old days,” but I agree.  I wouldn’t tinker with that.  It does seem like that as much as you may want to return to a previous time period, it’s not possible.  My husband was in the Navy and we were stationed on Guam for a couple years.  There were several families we knew who absolutely loved it there and had requested to stay or return.  But, most of them say that it’s never the same the second time around.

Q. (7:13): This does seem true.  No matter how much something hurts, you can’t change it, so you may as well accept it and look forward to where it’s taking you and what lesson you learned.

A. I would say there’s some good wisdom there.

O. (7:14): If no one ever prospered, we would never see or desire any goal to work toward.

Q. (7:15): We discussed earlier that this kind of talk, like Solomon saying life is “meaningless,” is probably not offending God.  Why did Solomon get so depressed in his last years?  I can’t tell if he truly acknowledges that his actions caused his downfall or if he is down on God.  Or, both?

A. We don’t have any information on when this was written within Solomon’s life, so we can only speculate.  Don’t forget, this is a contemplation about finding meaning in life outside of God, so I would say God is pretty “safe” from being offended.

Q. (7:27-29): I believe we have talked about why man falls short of following God’s laws, but it’s been a ways back and now would be a good time to bring it up again.  Did we say that human’s downfall has to do with free will?  It gives God more glory if people choose him willingly not under force?

A. Yes and yes, at least in the Armenian tradition.  Since true love (our genuine choice to follow and love God) involves a choice, the possibility must be open for people to say “no” to God (and each other).  This “no” to God is one of the ways that the Bible defines sin: it is to go our own way, without consideration of God.  God appears to want genuine followers, not puppets, and the only way that can happen is to allow some degree of free choice in life.

O. (7:14): I don’t think we do this today where the wicked are considered good in society and conversely, that the good are made out to be victims.  That does happen occasionally. On a similar note, I would say that, the media gives way too much attention to bad guys.  With bad guys getting so much press, one would think that they are celebrities, which may attract others who want attention.  Also, the media plays up Hollywood too much.  I have never understood why actors are put on a pedestal in our country.  If they spread more news and made more movies about positive stories and people who help others, this world would likely be a more moral place!

Q. (7:17): Solomon certainly seemed like he was trying to learn everything under the sun.  This was part of his downfall?

A. If doing so took away his focus on God (and it appears that it did), then yes.

Q. (9:1): We have to consider the source here.  Solomon is down on God.  Solomon acts like he has no idea who God is.  He is pouting from his punishment?

A. We don’t know.  It is certainly cynical thinking, but as verse 2 of this chapter points out (again), the fate of the faithful and the blasphemous is the same: death.  If we carry that argument out a little farther, we can see something interesting.  If Solomon is convinced that there is no life after death, or perhaps he is making the argument, then there is no benefit to being righteous.  We see this quite often to this day: the evil often get away with it, and justice is not done.  But belief in an afterlife allows for a much more acceptable notion of justice: that there are eternal — not just temporal — consequences to the decisions that we make.  It becomes easy to see how the atheist slips into moral uncertainty: without God and His eternal justice, everything is permissible.

Q. (9:12): Maybe so, but God has told us that He won’t give us anything we can’t handle — though it may seem like doom is near — and it can be part of the plan.  Just look at Job.  He was stripped of everything, but he kept his faith and God restored him.

A. What you are beginning to touch on here is the examination of certain passages of the OT in light of others: that was a big part of developing a theology (beliefs about God and His relationship with humanity in general and Israel specifically).  This theology is always in flux (at least the details are), and new generations come to see God in different ways.  I think that such discussions honor God, because we use the very intellect He blessed us with to make up our own minds about how we will react to hard times: will we be cynical and give up on God, or will we be faithful like Job?

O. (9:16): This reminds me of elections.  If you have money, then the people will hear you (because you can afford advertising) you will be listened to.  If you are poor, you can’t afford to spread your word, so you are snuffed out.

O. (10:4): So, if you made a mistake, you work harder so you can gain back respect.  I think this is true in every relationship.  I think it needs to also come with an apology.  And, I believe, that everyone has messed up at work, especially when they are young.  I used to work at a newspaper.  My first mistake, probably my first or second week of work, was that I input the wrong weather page.  Yes, someone else is there to catch mistakes like that, but it was ultimately my responsibility.  I also put on the wrong answers to crosswords and other stuff like that.  But, I worked hard and was designing front pages in no time.  I have messed up with this blog several times — I know it’s not perfect, but it’s getting God’s Word out and it will be made into even more great things — but no one reamed me about it.  Don’t think that anyone has not made some major mistakes.  We learn from our mistakes at a very young age.  Mistakes breed success.

Q. (10:10): I love this saying, but coming from Solomon at this point, who would take his advice?  He is so contradicting.  Here he is saying gather more wisdom, other places he says wisdom is meaningless.  What are we supposed to take from Ecclesiastes?

A. That everything is meaningless without God.  Hang on until the next chapter, and see who gets the “final word”.

O. (11:2): Here is some sound advice from Solomon that holds true to today.

Day 156 (June 5): 1,000 women for Solomon, God raises three adversaries for Solomon, Solomon despondent to life

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

1 Kings 11

2 Chronicles 9:29-31

Ecclesiastes 1:1-11

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Kings 11:1-3, Ecclesiastes 1:11): What happened to Solomon?  He wrote so many words of wisdom.  All of these women influenced them with their gods and he became despondent?

A. If you are suggesting that Solomon’s turn to foreign gods made him despondent and write about how life is meaningless, I do not agree with that.  I honestly don’t particularly like them putting a volume like Ecclesiastes at this point, as though Solomon got depressed in his last days and wrote a depressing book.  We have no reason or evidence that this is the case.  While you certainly can argue that Ecclesiastes is a “depressing” book, I would say it’s worth reading in full as a philosophical examination of the eternal question, “what is life without God?”

Q. (1 Kings 11:11,39): God had said that if Solomon and his descendants followed the laws of God, his (or David’s) line would be placed on the throne, but if they didn’t, Israel would be uprooted from the land (1 Kings 9:6).  He is lightening Solomon’s punishment?  But, it looks like God is arranging for some major trouble for Solomon (1 Kings 11:14-26) — Hadad, Rezon and Jeroboam.  In verse 11:39, God says he will punish Solomon’s descendants, though not forever.

A. The punishment was for the entire line of kings, not merely Solomon.  Solomon’s poor decisions are but a taste of how bad it’s going to get.

Q. (1 Kings 11:41, 2 Chronicles 9:29): Any idea what these — The Book of the Acts of Solomon, The Record of Nathan the Prophet, The Prophecy of Ahijah from Shiloh and The Visions of Iddo The Seer — are or if they still exist?

A. They may, but no one has ever found them.  This doesn’t mean, however, that they do not exist.  New discoveries are made in archeology all the time, and some of the most fascinating discoveries of the modern era — the Dead Sea Scrolls (found outside of Israel) and the Nag Hammadi Library (found in Egypt) give us incredible glimpses into the writings of the ancient world.  The N/H works provide a glimpse into the world of a philosophy of Gnosticism, which was (and is) a rival of Christian thought.  This volume allowed archeologists to find volumes that are referred to in ancient Christian documents thousands of years old — i.e. from the first centuries AD — but no one had ever found them before.  There is always hope that in places like Egypt or similar locations, scrolls and other writings can last for literally thousands of years.  So even if these volumes have not been found yet, doesn’t mean that they cannot be.

Day 155 (June 4): A woman and man write of their intimate love for one another

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Song of Solomon 1-8

Questions & Observations

Q.  I can’t help asking what the purpose of this song is?  One footnote said something about the man and woman’s relationship being an allegory to God and the church.  But, why use such intimate or sexual language?

A. That’s life.  Despite our modern Puritan almost obsession with not talking about sexuality in healthy terms — we discuss it plenty in unhealthy terms — the Bible does not shy away from talking about healthy sexuality between a (married) man and woman.  Song of Solomon presents sexuality as God desires it.  This offends our modern sensibilities that say you don’t talk about such things — there was some of this in Jewish culture as well: Jewish children weren’t allowed to read/hear this book until they had reached a certain age — but there is no reason that the love between this man and woman cannot be shared for our benefit.  No doubt it is a unique book in the canon, but I for one think the Bible is better for having it than not.  Regarding the idea that it’s not talking about human sexuality (i.e. its really about God and church), that idea is usually presented from people who don’t really want the Bible to discuss sexuality, frankly, in positive terms.  The idea that the explicit descriptions of sexual adventures are somehow metaphor is a bit ridiculous to me.

Q. Then, let’s talk about the characters.  The man is Solomon?  And, the woman strongly desires Solomon and he desires her?  What role do the Women of Jerusalem have?  Just to elevate his attractiveness by them talking about him?

A. The text appears to discuss Solomon and one of his (many) wives — there might be portions of the text that discuss their courtship before they are married — but the general consensus is that it is talking about their married romantic relationship.  The women appear to fill the role of “chorus” in Greek drama- as some sort of narrator who “responds” to the story.

Q. (Song of Songs 1:5): Why mention her dark skin?  It sounds like that it’s something he desires and that he may like the fact that she works the fields?

A. She is concerned about it because in those days, many with dark skin got it from working out in the sun, which she thinks makes her less desirable.  Generally, only the wealthy, who didn’t have to work, were pail, which made pail skin more desirable in that society.  Little does she know that he apparently likes her that way.

Q. (1:7): It seems that the woman is doing most of the chasing here.

A. She’s looking for him, no doubt.

Q. (1:17): There are a lot of references to scents and vegetation.  Why?

A. Most of the pleasant smells and scents came from natural extracts came from flowers, plants, or other vegetation.  In a society without regular bathing or deodorant, it makes sense that such good smells would be highly desirable.

Q. (2:7, 3:5): This is a refrain?  I do like the reference to not awakening love until it’s ready.  I don’t know if “the time is right” means age-wise or just couples spending enough time together until they are sure of their love?  Of course, waiting for the right person to come along is so hard for many because of loneliness, sexual desires, self-esteem, etc.  So, this is a wise verse to wait for the right person to come along to marry.  If not, it can give you loads of heartache and disappointment.  I can wait a very long time to see my kids go through that!

A. The idea of when “the time was right” would have been very different in that society than in ours.  Women got married in their late teens in ancient society, and women today average 29 years old for their first marriage.  That’s a 10-year difference.

But regardless of the “drawbacks” of waiting, the advice is sound: this entire book points to the passion found in true love.  If the man and woman didn’t really love each other, most of the emotional effect would have been lost.

Q. (3:1-4): It seems the woman is doing most of the chasing.  This indicates how desirable Solomon was?
A. Sure, he was the king, and apparently handsome.

Q. (6:11-12): I don’t understand this, do you?

A. Nope.  This is the most obscure set of verses in the text, and no one really knows what it means.

Q. (7:10-13): Is checking the vegetation a symbol used to describe if the lovers are ready to bloom and be together?

A. Nope.  It’s a bit more explicit than that.  It’s a double entendre that is used by the woman both to describe both their meeting place — in a garden — and her, um, personal garden.  Aren’t you glad you know that now?

Q. (8:12): What is the woman saying here about caring for its vines?

A. We don’t really know.  There are a number of verses of this text where the meanings are simply lost to history.

Day 146 (May 26): Solomon’s leaders, Solomon’s prosperity and wisdom, Psalm 72: May God give the king wisdom to rule justly, Psalm 127: Without the Lord’s direction, work is futile, blessed are the children

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

1 Kings 4:1-34

Psalm 72

Psalm 127

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Kings 4:20-34): This account greatly contrasts from his father’s.  Why was Solomon so blessed and David’s reign was so tumultuous?

A. Um, let’s hold that thought until the story is completed.  But the answer to your question is David’s sins.  Solomon has done pretty well to this point, but things are about to turn for the same reason David’s kingdom fell apart.

Q. (Psalm 127:3-5): I love these little sprite verses.  They make me smile.   Here it says “how joyful is the many whose quiver is full of them (children).”  We were going to talk about this before, but decided to hold off.  Here it sounds like having a lot of children is a desirable thing by society.  Nowadays, families are normally much smaller with 1-3 children.  Are there any verses that address how God views the many ways of a planned family via birth control?

A. Well, obviously, artificial birth control is a modern invention undreamed of in the days of the Bible, but many of the ways that society has shifted in the last two centuries reflect the movement away from large families (i.e. they became the exception and not the norm).  First, until the modern age, no one planned for retirement (partly because a lot of people didn’t live that long), and so if you did, you were fully dependent upon your children.  So if you had more kids, you were probably pretty safe.  This was especially true of women, who would have depended upon the care of a male relative (most likely a son) after she was widowed.

Regarding the issue of how the Bible approaches family, there’s a lot going on: many of these issues have to be held in tension, but I think there’s a consistent thread.  Part of it has to do with the distinction between OT and NT.  In the OT, the main goal for each generation was raising up a new generation who would love and have a healthy relationship with God so that they to could inherit the Promised Land.  That obviously makes family paramount, so verses like these surely express the sentiment that they felt: they honored God by having many children.  But after Jesus (who as we have discussed, was NOT married), the mission focus was expanded to not only Jews, but also the entire world, while not losing the focus on an individual family (I hope that makes sense).  The individual family was still prized by God: it is still HIS primary design for how His loved is passed from generation to generation, whether among Jew or Christian.  But with Jesus as the example, God set a new standard: family was not the ONLY way to spread His word.  So to some people who were not married — like Jesus, including Paul, and most major western Church leaders, and this would include women — God gave them the task of spreading the word about His actions and having only the congregation or Church as family, rather than offspring.  In other words, they were called to celibacy.  It goes back to Paul’s discussion of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-15: God has blessed different people in different ways — some He (clearly!) desires to have children, and others He calls to a life of celibacy that they might follow Him more closely for their lives or some portion of it, they are not mutually exclusive.

The problem is that even though God honors BOTH paths equally — as long as we are faithful to Him while on these roads — we find that our society often confuses isolation and not being married with being incomplete.  Part of that incompleteness in our world is removed by having children, but sometimes having children is actually a very selfish way of dealing with feelings of isolation or loneliness.  That is often a very tragic situation.  Now, I am not saying that God cannot redeem such situations, but as we have discussed over these months, how God acts to redeem us and WHAT HE IDEALLY DESIRES are often very different things.  When we allow anything other than God to provide our fulfillment, even children, we have created an idol, however noble its creation might appear to be.  We are not living as the men and women He desires us to be if we are seeking ultimate fulfillment in a child rather than God.  So basically, as long as we keep first things first — that is, God above all else — then I think we have a great degree of freedom as Christians to seek out a partner to have children with within community.  We must honor God with our families, whether they are biological or bound by the Spirit.

Day 145 (May 25): Solomon builds towns and ships, Sheba impressed with Solomon’s wisdom and success, Solomon lavishes in wealth, Solomon acquires horses and chariots

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

2 Chronicles 8:1-18

1 Kings 9:15-10:29

2 Chronicles 9:13-28

2 Chronicles 1:14-17

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Kings 9:27): Hiram certainly did a lot of work for Solomon.  Why is he so loyal to Solomon?

A. Two options: one is that he is really being loyal to God’s chosen leader, so he is really being faithful to God not Solomon.  The other is that he desired the favor of the king who clearly made him wealthy, even if they had some disagreements over HOW good the properties were.  As we have mentioned, it was not a good idea to be on the king’s bad side.

Q. (1 Kings 10:1-13, 2 Chronicles 9:1-12): After reading this once, I thought this is a great story, but nothing I don’t already know.  But, on a second read, I thought about the lavish gifts exchanged between Solomon, Sheba and Hiram.  Rob, you were right when you said that Solomon was a diplomat.  But, with his wisdom, I would think that it would not be just for his gain, but for mutual gain of the one’s he’s befriending and also, just because he’s a god-loving person and wants to give them the mutual respect that friends give one another.

A. Yes indeed.  And Solomon’s gain is the gain of his nation.  What an image of saying that Solomon’s influence made gold and silver as worthless as stone!

Q. (1 Kings 10:19): Why lions?  Because they are king of the land?  With all of this adornment on his throne, I hope he doesn’t forget that there is a much bigger king above him.

A. Alas, he will in a way.  The lion, is, naturally king of the land.  In those days lions could still be found in the Middle East, so seeing one wasn’t out of the question.  The lion is also the symbol of Judah’s house (Judah was the lion’s cub of Jacob back in Genesis 49).

Q. (1 Kings 10:22): Apes and peacocks?  My footnote says baboons and peacocks.  Why would Solomon want them?

A. We’re not exactly sure what the Hebrew means here, either monkeys or peacocks, because it’s the only place in the Bible where it is used.  I presume they were used for pets or perhaps Solomon had a zoo or something like it to entertain guests.  People still keep all of those things as pets today — sadly for the apes and monkeys — and VERY sadly for the people who live near a person with a peacock.  I’ve been near one and they are incredibly noisy and annoying!

Q. (1 Kings 10:23): Did Israel have a commodity to trade or are they just making their fortune from all of these gifts.  The nation is recognized because it’s where the Lord resides in the temple and for Solomon’s wisdom?

A. It is, but clearly there were things that the people were trading as well, probably woodcraft, metal workings/jewelry, foodstuffs (remember the fertile soil in the land), and aquaculture (since part of the land is by the sea).  But what is making all of these things desirable is Solomon himself.

Q. (2 Chronicles 1:14-17): Why is Solomon building such a big army right now?  Is it the size of the force helps intimidate the enemy?

A. Most likely.  Solomon’s about to have some enemies.  It’s down hill from here.

Day 144 (May 24): Temple is dedicated with a big celebration, God fills temple with glory, God is pleased with temple, God tells Solomon the fate of his descendants, Hiram disappointed with towns Solomon gave him

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

1 Kings 8:54-66

2 Chronicles 7:1-10

1 Kings 9:1-9

2 Chronicles 7:11-22

1 Kings 9:10-14

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Kings 8:54-66): I can’t imagine a festival this big or long.  Not to mention the clean-up and exhaustion. It doesn’t tell us how many people attended, but I would imagine it was a bunch.  President Obama’s inaugurations were estimated at 1.8 million for his first term and 1 million for his second.

A. I’m sure the nation’s event planners made a fortune.  No, seriously, there were regular gatherings like this one to Jerusalem (the story tells us that the people would have been coming to the city anyway to celebrate the Festival of Shelters/Tabernacles, described in Leviticus 23).  So this basically was an expanded version of an already existing festival.  Since David had established Jerusalem as his throne, it was very likely that people had been coming to the city in large numbers for many years.  The same will be true in Jesus’ day: one of the things that historians tell us about the Passover that was being celebrated during Jesus’ last week was that there were probably close to a million pilgrims in and around the city for the festival.  There is no reason to assume it didn’t also happen in a more ancient time.

Q. (1 Kings 9:1-9): So we find out that God is very pleased with the Lord’s temple that Solomon built.  God follows this praise with a challenging charge.  Solomon has a pretty tall order:  If he obeys God and keeps His commands, a descendant of David will always be on the throne.  That is a lot of weight for one man to carry.  Solomon has a good start.

A. Yes he does.  (Not going to tell you here).

Q. (1 Kings 9:10-14): This seems to be another foreshadowing of consequences Solomon will face from not giving his best or better to Hiram who had given so much of himself to build the temple.

A. That does seem to be a pretty nasty move, doesn’t it?  Not a good sign.